By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 23, 2013
DETROIT — Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson has said all season that the team’s primary goal is to make it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals.
More like this
So, once the Wolverines made it to Detroit for the 24th-consecutive year, what was next on their agenda? Advance to the championship game.
Check. Michigan breezed past Miami (Ohio) Saturday evening in a 6-2 decision powered by a torrent of goals in the second period. The win sets up a match against Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon for the CCHA Championship.
But though the offense stole the show, Berenson saw it as an all-around team effort.
“It wasn't just the offense, it was the defense too,” Berenson said. “Our goalie had to be a real factor in this game so things did not end up in the back of our net. We had a lot of guys in our offensive zone that got the puck to the net and made good plays.”
Though Michigan started the first 1:52 of the second period on the power play, its penalty kill finally came up in a big early in the frame.
As senior forward Kevin Lynch skated down towards Miami netminder Ryan McKay, he passed the puck to freshman forward Andrew Copp right in front of the crease to up the Wolverines’ first goal of the game. Copp found twine again a few minutes later, this time on a backdoor goal after a feed from freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba.
And from that point forward, it started to rain goals for the Wolverines. In the span of less than a minute, junior forward Luke Moffatt scored on a one-timer from the slot and senior forward A.J. Treais ended a 14-game goal drought with one of his own.
The RedHawks finally answered with a goal of their own straight off the draw, to put the game at 4-1 entering the final stanza. But sophomore forward Alex Guptill scored a power-play goal for Michigan 55 seconds into the third period and then again with seven minutes left in the game. Though the RedHawks did get a second goal, it wasn’t enough to overcome the potent Wolverine offense.
"When you look at the score, you think it was a one-sided game, but it really wasn't if you were playing it on the ice,” Berenson said. “It could have easily been just a one-goal game, and I thought we were fortunate to score the first goal.
“When you are playing a team like that you would hate to play them from behind. I thought they out chanced us, outshot us, and were the better team for the most part, but the puck was going in for us."
Neither the Wolverines nor RedHawks could establish much offense during the first period, though Michigan had two power play chances. The RedHawks boast the best penalty-kill unit in the CCHA, and though the Wolverines applied pressure and had a few good looks, it wasn’t enough to break Miami.
The latter half of that period belonged to the RedHawks, and the Wolverines’ defense again proved that it has become the backbone of the revitalized Michigan squad. Freshman goalie Steve Racine came up with some big saves — especially during Miami’s first power play of the night — and he certainly had some help from the rest of the defenseman who went out of their way to block shots and clear the zone.
But it was Trouba who solidified his position as Michigan’s most valuable presence on the blue line. After a RedHawk shot from the circle squirted past Racine, hit the goal post and hovered at the goal line, Trouba dove forward to clear the puck and keep the game scoreless going into the first intermission.
“The first period wasn't our greatest, and it has been good to get the first goal lately,” Treais said. “The first half of the season it wasn't happening. Scoring the first goal gives you a little bit of momentum.”
The score didn’t remain at a stalemate for long, and now the Wolverines have a date with Notre Dame at 2:05 p.m. Sunday to play for a spot in the NCAA Tournament and to keep its 22-year NCAA Tournament streak alive. Michigan has gone 0-4 against the Fighting Irish this year.